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New wood smoke regulations target air quality

New regulations aimed at improving air quality will restrict backyard burning in urban areas and place tighter controls on smoke from wood heaters.

Under the new regulations that commenced on 15 August, all heaters sold in the State, including second-hand units, must comply with the current Australian Standard on heater emissions.

The regulations also place limits on visible smoke from heaters, fireplaces and barbecues and they prohibit the modification of heaters where it is likely to increase emissions.

Local government officers will be able to issue notices to householders when smoke is excessive, with penalties for non-compliance.

The new regulations also address backyard burning. This practice will be banned on urban blocks of less than 2,000 square metres except for fire hazard reduction purposes.

Councils may pass a by-law to opt out of the urban backyard burning prohibition, but the onus will be on the council to consider the affect on air quality.

The Environmental Management and Pollution Control (Distributed Atmospheric Emissions) Regulations 2007 have been under development for several years. They were developed within the framework of the Tasmanian Air Quality Strategy.

The State Government has consulted with councils, government agencies, the wood heater industry and the public on the regulations.

A reasonable compromise has been achieved between the need to heat homes and dispose of waste and the need to improve air quality.

Smoke from wood heaters and backyard burning can contribute to excessive levels of fine particles in the air which is known to increase the incidence of heart and respiratory diseases.

Smoke can also be an environmental nuisance for neighbours. The new regulations will help to reduce these effects.

The new regulations will limit how much smoke can be emitted from wood heaters.

The test will be whether smoke can be seen coming from the flue continuously for at least 10 minutes and if so, whether it can be seen to extend at least 10 metres from the top of the flue for more than 30 seconds at a time.

Smoke may be emitted all day and night, as long as it is not visible 10 metres or more from the flue or chimney.

Education and warnings will be the first step in implementing the new regulations but on-the-spot fines of will be applied if people persist in operating their wood heaters in a way that causes excessive smoke.

If other approaches consistently fail and a case goes to court, the maximum penalty for visible smoke emissions will be ,000.

Pamphlets explaining the regulations are available from the Environment Division and on the Division’s website www.environment.tas.gov.au
Information is also available on the website to help wood heater users operate their heaters correctly.